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How To File for Unemployment as a Veteran

Learn how to collect unemployment benefits as former service member.

The United States is currently experiencing its highest rate of unemployment since the Great Depression. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 14.7% of Americans are without a job — and it’s estimated closer to 20%. 

This is a far cry from the 50-year-low of 3.5% in February. 

Since the crisis hit in mid-March, nearly 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance; benefits that the government has extended to include self-employed and gig workers. These benefits have also increased by $600 a week. 

For many hardworking Americans, the process of filing for unemployment is a foreign one. People who’ve held jobs for decades are finding themselves suddenly without one, and unsure of when the job market will begin to recover. This holds especially true for newer Veterans, who never had to worry about job security in the military. 

What Veterans may not know is that they could qualify for one of three different types of unemployment insurance. So, if they don’t meet the requirements for one, they can try their luck with two more. 

Here’s how to file for unemployment as a Veteran: 


How To File for Unemployment as a Veteran 

As a Veteran, you have several options when it comes to unemployment insurance. So your first step is determining which option is right for you. 

  • State Unemployment Insurance (standard) 
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) 
  • Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX) 

State Unemployment Insurance is what most people collect when they’re unemployed and eligible for government assistance. Each state has different rules regarding how to apply for unemployment, who qualifies for it, and how much money they qualify for. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is for people who may not otherwise qualify for state unemployment, such as self-employed individuals, part-time and gig workers, and other people who are unable to work due to the current climate. 

Unemployment Compensation for EX-Servicemembers is for Veterans who have been on active duty and honorably discharged. This is provided by your state of residency and paid for by your military branch. 

Right now, unemployment programs are paying out $600 extra per week because of the crisis, and the time you can collect it for is extended to 39 weeks — 13 weeks more than is normal. Keep in mind that these are not the only unemployment programs available. For example, if you were a federal employee, you may qualify for Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) instead. 


Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX) 

When learning how to file for unemployment as a Veteran, the first thing you should check out is UCX. This program is specifically for Veterans who have found themselves without employment. To qualify, you must: 

  • Have been on active duty within a U.S. military branch
  • Have received an honorable discharge 

UCX should be your first choice for unemployment insurance as a Veteran. And if you’re newly separated from service, you may not even qualify for state unemployment, which has certain parameters based on how you left your previous employer. 

To apply for UCX: 

  1. Collect your:
    1. DD Form 214
    2. Social Security number
    3. Updated resume 
  2. Contact your state’s department of labor

As with regular unemployment, the benefits you receive will be determined based on your state of residence, which can be based on how much you made when you were employed or your area’s cost of living. 


State Unemployment Insurance

Your second choice for unemployment as a Veteran should be state insurance. In fact, you can’t file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance until you’ve been turned down by state unemployment, so you’ll need to file for this first anyway. 

Each state sets its own eligibility requirements, but there’s a pretty general set of rules to follow. To qualify, you must:

  • Be unemployed through no fault of your own. So, if you quit or were fired, then you don’t qualify. However, under the CARES Act you may be able to waive this requirement if you quit because you were diagnosed with COVID-19. 
  • Meet the work requirements. Most states require you to have been employed for at least a year since you last filed for unemployment, and part-time work does not qualify. 
  • Have worked within the state you’re filing in. If you just moved to California but worked in New York the past five years, you won’t qualify for California unemployment. 

Then, of course, the state can set its own requirements. Again, if you don’t meet these requirements, you still need to file and be turned down before you can qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 

To apply for State Unemployment Insurance, follow these steps: 

  1. Collect your:
    1. Social Security number 
    2. State ID
    3. Employment history (including previous employer’s addresses and contact information)
  2. Contact your state’s department of labor. Because so many people have filed recently, these systems are overwhelmed, so you’ll need to be persistent. Try calling at odd hours for a better chance of reaching someone. 
  3. Expect to wait two to three weeks to receive your first check. 


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance 

If you were turned down by your state’s unemployment program, then you can file for PUA. Here’s how to know if you qualify for it: 

  • You’re an independent contractor, part-time worker, gig worker, or self employed, and your ability to find work has been compromised due to COVID-19
  • You have been unable to find work due to the coronavirus
  • You are the primary caregiver for a dependent 
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • You can’t go to your place of work due to a stay-at-home order 
  • The head of your household has died due to COVID-19
  • Your place of unemployment has closed due to COVID-19

There may be other extenuating circumstances that qualify you for PUA. 

To file, follow these instructions: 

  1. Collect your:
    1. Social Security number 
    2. Earnings documents (tax returns, paycheck stubs, bank receipts, etc.)
  2. Visit this link


How To File for Unemployment as a Veteran

As a Veteran, you’ve got more options than your average civilian when it comes to filing for unemployment. In review, you should: 

  • Learn about Veteran’s unemployment (UCX), and file for that if you qualify 
  • File for your state’s unemployment if you don’t 
  • File for pandemic unemployment if your state turns you down 

In difficult times, it’s important to know that someone has your back. While unemployment checks don’t last forever, they can buy you valuable time to find new work or figure out a different plan to move forward. 

Keep in mind that you need to file a new claim every week to keep collecting your unemployment benefits. 

Learn: 3 Things That Could Happen To the Military in a Recession


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